Newsletter – 12th September 2021



Plan to map churchyards causes confusion

Conditional baptism

A 19th century midwife

What do you call a male midwife?

Mix-up at the hospital

The other Cromwell

Preserving family heirlooms

Mr & Mrs Selfridge

A medieval place of sanctuary

The Prisoner EXCLUSIVE

The Village

Review: Our Village Ancestors

Peter's Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 27th August) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



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Plan to map churchyards causes confusion

A few years ago there was a plan to survey all Church of England graveyards which sounded wonderful until I looked more closely and realised that it was more about surveying the boundaries than recording who was buried there. That plan now seems to have resurfaced, but with more of a focus on the inhabitants of the churchyards.


The latest proposal has been widely publicised in the press (for example, see this Guardian article), and then circulated on family history forums and mailing lists. However, whilst there's reference to a website opening next year, it's described as a 7-year project so don't expect instant gratification.


It's also worth noting that whilst the website will be free, the Guardian article also says that there will be "the option to subscribe to additional services", and it's not clear where the dividing line will be.


Lesley posted some very interesting comments on the Cheshire Mailing List which she has kindly allowed me to reproduce here:


"I understood this was being funded in part by English Heritage? Google have also claimed it as one of their initiatives, presumably because it will use their Google Maps system. It's also supposed to be including all municipal cemeteries. Or is that a separate project?


"There seems to be a lot of confusion going around as to who's doing what. It's obviously Atlantic Geomatics who are driving the churchyard mapping, but as to who will be launching what and how comprehensive it will be, remains to be seen.


"It will probably be a very long time before all existing graves are mapped and available for public viewing on a website. Just getting around some cemeteries and churchyards is going to be a challenge, not to mention the state of some graves which renders their memorials unreadable without a lot of effort. then there are the many that have been cleared and tarmacked. Will they be using burial records? How are they going to map a churchyard otherwise? Are they consulting family history societies who have already surveyed & recorded memorials in many graveyards? It's all a bit fuzzy at the moment.


"We shall wait and see on the basis that anything extra to what we already have access to is a bonus."


I've visited several churchyards where my ancestors were buried but I've been unable to identify any of their graves - if there were any permanent memorials the inscriptions must have worn away long ago. Some of your ancestors may have been more wealthy, but they're bound to be in the minority - a quick comparison of the number of headstones in a typical parish churchyard with the number of entries in the burial registers is likely to reveal that only a small minority of our antecedents were commemorated by a memorial inscription.


If we assume that there are 500 individuals whose final resting places can be identified in a typical parish churchyard that equates to 9.5 million across the 19,000 churchyards included in the project – a sizeable number, to be sure, but far fewer than the 16.4 million entries in the National Burial Index at Findmypast, or the tens of millions of records at DeceasedOnline. It's also only 10% of the number of deaths registered in England & Wales since civil registration began in 1837.


Of course, any new resource of relevance to family historians is to be welcomed – but let's not get too over-excited about this one. I don’t imagine that it will knock down many 'brick walls'!



Conditional baptism

The article in the last newsletter regarding late baptisms prompted a number of emails from readers who have examples in their tree – I also heard from some who believed that one of their relatives had been baptised twice.


Most Christian denominations do not allow someone to be baptised twice. When there is uncertainty as to whether someone has previously been baptised a different form of words is used – for example, in the Church of England:


"[name] if you have not already been baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."


You can find out more about Church of England baptism services here.


Although most denominations take a similar approach, they don’t necessarily accept the validity of a baptism carried out by a minister from another denomination, and that may account for some late baptisms.


In the baptism register of St Mary Woolnoth, in the City of London, there are some interesting examples of baptism entries. Caroline alerted me to the baptism of her great-great grandmother Hannah Barker, who was born to a single mother in 1851 and baptised 30 years later by the rector in whose household she was employed as a cook. It was an important discovery for Caroline: although she knew that her ancestor's father was one of 4 brothers – because in the 1851 Census the infant was living with her paternal grandfather – this is the only record to identify the father by name.


Reproduced by kind permission of the London Metropolitan Archives and Ancestry. All Rights Reserved.


Hannah's parents never married, so the minister was stretching the truth when describing her parents as George & Lucy Bradfield, but technically correct when he said that Lucy's maiden name was Barker, since by 1881 she had married someone else.


Not long after Hannah's baptism the rector was taken ill – hopefully not as a result of Hannah's cooking – and he died in 1883. During his illness two remarkable baptism entries were recorded on the opposite page of the register by the curate:


Reproduced by kind permission of the London Metropolitan Archives and Ancestry. All Rights Reserved.


Neither baptism took place in a church and this is highlighted by the letters 'P B' (for 'private baptism') in the margin; the first baptism was when he was vicar of Brompton, the second after he became rector of St Mary Woolnoth in 1872.


Note: in some registers the single letter 'P' is used to identify a private baptism, but you need to be aware that 'P' can also indicate a pauper (someone who was exempt from the tax on register entries imposed between 1783-94).


The first of these baptisms relates to the rector's second wife, Sarah Albinia Louisa Shadwell, and is recorded as a 'conditional' baptism, which is just as well because I discovered that she had been baptised at St Mary, Barnes, Surrey in 1833:


Reproduced by kind permission of Surrey History Centre and Ancestry. All Rights Reserved.


It seems unlikely that there was any defect in this baptism since at the time her father was Vice Chancellor of England, ie one of the most senior judges in the land.


The 1833 entry shows Sarah Albinia Louisa Shadwell as having been 'half-baptized' on 4th March, then received into the church on 10th May – this indicates that it was a private baptism. The Church of England officially disapproved of private baptisms except in those cases where the infant was not expected to survive, but, as this paper explains, private baptisms were also about social status.


The baptism of Jessie Augusta Irby (nee Cuningham/Cunningham/Cuninghame) in 1874 is not shown as conditional, but it should be noted that Findmypast have a transcribed record of a baptism in Tarbolton, Ayrshire, Scotland. That entry gives her birthdate as 12th August 1835, and this earlier date ties in more closely with the age of 73 recorded when her death was registered.



However it's worth noting that since she died on 13th July 1908, she was actually only 72 years 11 months and 1 day old). Nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to the upper classes!



I'm going to end with an addendum to the article on Late Baptisms: I omitted to mention that some denominations, notably Baptists, do not approve of infant baptism. This is a strange omission given that my own parents were Baptists, so in fact I wasn't baptised until my early teens!



A 19th century midwife

Coventry midwife Mary Eaves attended over 4,400 births between 1845-75. The registers she kept are now searchable online at Findmypast, and whilst the information recorded is quite limited, the scale of her endeavours underlines how different things were in earlier times.


The role of the midwife must be very different today, since dividing the number of births in England by the number of midwives produces a figure that's closer to 14 than the 140 or so that Mary attended in an average year. Indeed, researching further I discovered that only 53% of hospital births in England had a midwife in attendance in 2015-16, down from three-quarters in 1989-90, which increases the disparity still further.


Note: a couple of years ago I read The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe which provided a fascinating insight into the role they played in earlier centuries.



What do you call a male midwife?

Not until 1977 were men allowed to train as midwives in England, and even by 1987 there were still only 6 qualified male midwives practising. A further 30 years on the numbers had swollen to 188 across the UK, though this still represented just 0.4% of the total. You can read more about the ascent of man in midwifery in this BBC article from 2017.


So what do you call a male midwife? A midwife, of course. According to Wikipedia the word derives from Old English mid, with, and wif, woman, and thus originally meant 'with-woman', that is, the person who is with the mother at childbirth.


Note: Findmypast have the records of more than 2000 births in Lydd, Kent between 1757 and 1815 which were attended by William Waylett, an early male midwife.



Mix-up at the hospital

A Spanish woman is claiming damages of three million Euros from the hospital that accidentally handed her to the wrong mother 19 years ago, shortly after her birth. You can read more about this story in these Guardian and Daily Mail articles.



The other Cromwell

Last week I wandered past Oliver Cromwell's house in Ely. Most people instinctively think of Oliver Cromwell when they hear the surname, but it's his namesake Thomas – Henry VIII's chief minister – we family historians are indebted to.


In 1538 Thomas Cromwell ordered parishes to keep registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, and though he lost his job and his head a couple of years later when he allowed Henry VIII to be fooled by a Photoshopped portrait of Anne of Cleves, the system he introduced has continued to this day (except for a short break when Oliver Cromwell was in charge).


Thomas Cromwell's house was a lot grander than Oliver's – it was a mansion with 58 rooms in the City of London. Although it burned down in 1666, during the Great Fire of London, extensive research by an historian has enabled the creation of an artist's impression, which you can see here.


It's ironic that while it was Holbein's flattering portrait of Anne of Cleves which helped bring about Thomas's downfall, the best-known portrait of Oliver Cromwell is famous because it shows him "warts and all". You can see Samuel Cooper's portrait here.



Preserving family heirlooms

How can you ensure that your family heirlooms are preserved for future generations? The London Metropolitan Archives have created seven guides on different aspects of conservation – you can download them here.



Mr & Mrs Selfridge

You can’t get married on a moving train – see this newsletter article from last month – but you can get married in a shop, provided the premises are appropriately licensed. This Daily Mail article reports on the very first marriage to take place in Selfridge's flagship store on London's Oxford Street.  



A medieval place of sanctuary

In 938 King Athelstan granted a right of sanctuary to the area within a 2-mile radius of the tomb of John, Bishop of York, who had founded a monastery at Beverley two centuries earlier.


The names of hundreds of people who were granted sanctuary between 1428 and 1539 are recorded in a notebook which is, according to this BBC article, soon to go on display.


Henry VIII removed Beverley's rights in 1540, and by 1624 there were no places of sanctuary remaining in England. Did one of your ancestors take seek sanctuary, I wonder?



The Prisoner EXCLUSIVE

Last month I briefly mentioned Portmeirion and the TV series The Prisoner that was filmed there. As so often happens that article led to some very interesting emails, including one from LostCousins member Susan, whose brother Max I saw on many of my visits to the village in the 1980 and 1990s, though I don’t believe we ever spoke.


Susan kindly persuaded Max to write a short article for the newsletter about his experiences. If you've visited Portmeirion or watched The Prisoner you'll find it fascinating, and if you haven’t it might just persuade you to do one or both!




'It's very cosmopolitan - you never know who you'll meet next.'


That quotation, from the first episode of The Prisoner TV series ('Arrival'), is said to Patrick McGoohan (known in the series as 'Number 6') by the village taxi driver as she shows him around Portmeirion (referred to in the series as 'The Village').  The taxis are 'local service only' and never go outside the village. However, the place is full of people from all over the world, and that is what the fictional village in The Prisoner and the actual village of Portmeirion in North Wales have in common.


In the TV series secret agents, scientists, government officials and any persons who have useful information (and who are too valuable to be left lying around if, like Number 6, they have resigned from a top-secret job) are brought to the village to have that information extracted from them. Escape from 'The Village' is extremely difficult, thanks mainly to a large white sphere called 'Rover' which doggedly follows would-be escapees. In reality, visitors to Portmeirion travel voluntarily to the place, a large number of them because they have seen The Prisoner, which has been shown on television in many parts of the world since 1967. That is why if you live and work there (as I did), you never know who you'll meet next!


Over the course of sixteen years, from 1982 to 1998, I ran The Prisoner souvenir shop (which was in the actual building used as the exterior of Number 6's house in the TV series). I met many well-known people, some of them actors who were in The Prisoner, some of them members of the production team, as well as the producer himself, David Tomblin, who was on holiday at Portmeirion in 1984 (at first I didn't recognise him, but he soon put me right!).


Michael York (of Logan's Run and many other films), Gareth Thomas (Blake's 7, London's Burning etc), Anneka Rice (who visited during Treasure Hunt in 1983), and Ulrika Jonsson (doing the weather forecast for TV-am in 1991) were among many other famous visitors. I'll always remember how Ulrika began one of her weather forecasts on that wet summer morning: "Now it's time for the weather - and it's rotten - it's rotten all over the place."  (Yes, 18th June 1991 certainly had much rain!)


I was also fortunate to meet a Beatle - this was George Harrison who was staying at Portmeirion in 1993 while filming a television programme called The Beatles Anthology with musician and TV presenter Jools Holland. I had met Jools before when he did some filming at Portmeirion as part of his music programme The Tube - this was in January 1987 when he spent a few days in the village making a satire of The Prisoner called 'The Laughing Prisoner' starring Jools as Number 7 (not Number 6), Stephen Fry as Number 2, and including the actor Stanley Unwin (famous for saying things in a funny way!), as well as a dance group called 'The Jiving Lindy Hoppers'.  Three pop groups performed in Portmeirion for the show: 'Siouxie and the Banshees', 'Magnum', and 'XTC' who sang two songs, one of which was called 'The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul.'


I remember the filming very well and it was a very enjoyable few days, although the weather was very cold.  There was some ice on the estuary on which Portmeirion is situated and it snowed on the last day.  There were no telephones in the hotel rooms and cottages at that time, and I have a picture in my mind of Paula Yates flinging open a cottage window and shouting "Where's the bloody phone?"!  By the way, I haven't forgotten the title of the second song performed by 'XTC' at Portmeirion - funnily enough, it was called 'The Meeting Place'!


Be seeing you, Max Hora.


Whilst Max never met Patrick McGoohan at Portmeirion their paths did cross in 1982; Max also met scriptwriter George Markstein in 1980 at a meeting of 'Six on One' (The Prisoner Appreciation Society). But where did the idea for the series come from? I found an interesting theory on the Internet…..



The Village

During the Second World War a number of secret establishments that were created to house people who, because of their knowledge, were security risks. Inverlair Lodge was one of those locations, and many people believe it inspired George Markstein to come up with the idea of 'The Village'. Markstein wrote a novel based on Inverlair, called The Cooler – the cover for the 1985 edition describes it as "a bitterly cold thriller about spies who can no longer be trusted".    


There is a rumour that Rudolf Hess was briefly held at Inverlair Lodge after his flight from Germany, but there's little or no evidence to support it (see the analysis on the Secret Scotland website). Nevertheless one has to wonder whether the fact that Hess was known as Prisoner No.7 at Spandau might have influenced the name of Patrick McGoohan's character. Coincidentally Rudolf Hess and George Markstein died in the same year, 1987, though under very different circumstances.


In 2009 there was a programme on BBC Radio Scotland entitled The Spies Who Knew Too Much which focused on Inverlair Lodge – unfortunately it isn't available online at the current time, but you'll find more information here.


I'd like to thank LostCousins member Ted who alerted me to the sites mentioned in this article. He has a family connection to Inverlair Lodge - in 1936 one of his mother's cousins married Eric, and here's what Ted told me about Eric:


"During World War II he served in the Intelligence Corps and in the Special Operations Executive. He was Adjutant at Inverlair Lodge in north-west Scotland which was known as 'The Cooler' where agents who for various reasons needed to be kept out of circulation were sent. Later he made two trips to Norway, one for a period from October 1944 before the final surrender and then immediately afterwards in May 1945. He apparently accepted the surrender of the German fleet in Norwegian waters and [the family still have] the German admiral’s sword. He received gifts of silver from the Norwegian Resistance Movement and was awarded the King Haakon VII Liberty Medal."



Review: Our Village Ancestors

Our Village Ancestors: A Genealogist’s Guide to Understanding the English Rural Past was written by Helen  Osborn, who many of you will know as one of the founders of Pharos Tutors (now run by Dr Karen Cummings). I can’t guarantee that it will help you knock down your 'brick walls', but it will certainly help you understand what life was like for your ancestors – and who knows what that will lead to?


In the mid-16th century, when parish registers began, only a quarter of the population lived in towns and cities, so it’s no wonder that almost all of the ancestral lines I've traced originated in villages. In most cases I know little about them beyond what is recorded in parish registers – so this book was just what I needed to gain a better perspective into their lives.


All of my ancestors eventually left their villages and arrived in London, starting in the late 18th century and finishing in the late 19th century, so I was particularly interested in the final chapter, 'Leaving the Village'. However, whilst migration to towns and cities accelerated in the 19th century our ancestors weren't completely immobile in earlier centuries – indeed, that's often why we have 'brick walls'.


Like some of you I live in an English village, but the villages of today are nothing like the villages of yesteryear – instead of a few hundred inhabitants there are now thousands, and where there were once rolling fields as far as the eye can see there are often housing estates obstructing our view  But we've also lost sight of what villages were about, and that's why I thoroughly recommend this book.


Available in Kindle format or as a paperback, this book will not only be of interest to family historians, but also to those with an interest in local or social history – and if you want to learn even more there are pages and pages of source references and bibliography. Out now in the UK, Australia, and Canada, out later this year in the US.                                                   



Peter's Tips

Reading that book not only reminded me that our ancestors lived very different lives, but also got me thinking about people who've changed their careers – perhaps because of the pandemic and the impact that has had on employment. I recently saw this article about a Cambridgeshire man who has swapped his 6-figure salary for a less-pressurised job as a postman – which reminded me that my nephew started delivering for Royal Mail temporarily when he was furloughed last year, and enjoyed it so much that he has now accepted a permanent job.


20 years ago everyone was rushing to retire early – one of my friends retired at 48 – but nowadays many of us are working past retirement age. In some cases it's a matter of economic necessity, but in others it’s because employers are no longer allowed to force their workers to retire when they reach a certain age. I remember how devastated my aunt was when she was forced to retire from the NHS at age 60 – she lived for another 33 years and would have had so much more to give.


This is the time of the year when I'm scouring the hedgerows for blackberries and other fruits – cherry plums and mirabelles are a special treat. I've already made a batch of Spiced Blackberry, Elderberry, and Apple jam plus one of Shepherd's Bullace, and there's also a reasonable crop of damsons from the tree in our garden (though not nearly as bounteous as last year). We had poached damsons with natural yoghurt for breakfast this morning, and there's enough to keep us going for at least a couple of weeks - you can’t beat fruit that you've gathered and prepared yourself!


This week I had the rare and unexpected pleasure of seeing a British tennis player win the Ladies Singles title at the US Open – the first Briton to do so since 1968. In the past I've used my Amazon Prime membership as a way of saving money on delivery charges (and getting a swifter service), but being able to watch Emma Radacanu's matches live – and in 4k – was a real bonus, though I have to admit that I didn’t stay up to watch the semi-final live (it began at 2am London time); instead I watched the highlights the next morning.


On a more sober note, tomorrow (Monday 13th September) will be the 45th anniversary of my mother's untimely death from cancer. I hope she would have been proud of what her children have achieved.



Stop Press

This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......



I have a question for you – are you making good use of your LostCousins membership? LostCousins is so much more than a newsletter – it's a place where experienced researchers who share the same ancestral lines can connect with a view to exchanging information and collaborating on future research.


You don’t need any subscriptions to start searching for your 'lost cousins' – all you need is the determination to succeed.   


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2021 Peter Calver


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